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MLB, MLBPA agree on stipulations for return of 2020 season

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Major League Baseball owners have approved a plan to address salary and service-time issues amid the indefinite delay to the start of the regular season, according to ESPN and multiple reports.

The owners completed an agreement reached between MLB and the players’ union Thursday night, which came after nearly two weeks of morning-to-night negotiations that involved players, owners, agents, executives, union officials and commissioner’s office staff.

As part of the agreement, obtained by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the players and MLB primarily agreed that the 2020 season will not start until each of the following conditions were met:

  • There are no bans on mass gatherings that would limit the ability to play in front of fans. However, the commissioner could still consider the “use of appropriate substitute neutral sites where economically feasible”;

  • There are no travel restrictions throughout the United States and Canada;

  • Medical experts determine that there would be no health risks for players, staff or fans, with the commissioners and union still able to revisit the idea of playing in empty stadiums.

While there was no formal framework in the agreement, owners and players both want to play as many games as possible. The flexibility of both sides was seen in the willingness to extend the regular season into October, play neutral-site playoff games in November and add doubleheaders to the schedule.

Players pushed to receive a full year of service time, which counts days toward free agency, arbitration and pension, even in the event of a canceled season. When MLB agreed to grant that, the path to a deal coming together was forged, sources said.

The union agreed not to sue the league for full salaries in the event that the 2020 season never takes place, and MLB will advance players $170 million over the next two months, sources said. The MLBPA will divvy up the lump sum among four classes of players, with the majority of it going to those with guaranteed major league contracts. If games are played, the advance will count against final salaries, which will be prorated.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has the discretion to shorten the 2020 draft to as few as five rounds, and it will be moved from June to sometime in July, sources said.

Manfred also can delay the 2020 international signing period, which was supposed to run from July 2, 2020, through June 15, 2021, to at latest Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 15, 2021. MLB also has the right to shorten the 2021 draft to as few as 20 rounds and push back the next international signing period as well — though international free agency might well be gone by then, as the league plans to pursue an international draft at the conclusion of the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs out in December 2021.

Sources said players drafted in 2020 will get only $100,000 of their bonus this year. The remaining amount will be split into payments made in July 2021 and July 2022.

Also, teams will be unable to trade draft picks or international slot money, sources said.

Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman, among others, are guaranteed to be free agents come November regardless of the season’s status. If the year is canceled, Betts might never play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded for him this offseason.

A transaction freeze will go into effect when owners make the deal official that bars teams from signing free agents, trading players and making roster moves.

A rejiggered setting for arbitration, the system that awards players with three, four and five years of service time with higher salaries. While arbitration is a numbers- and precedent-based system typically, the sides will change that to acknowledge the shorter schedule.

Any players punished with a drug suspension will serve the penalty in 2020, even if there is no season, sources said.

While both sides believed they made concessions, they settled around an obvious point: No sports league wants to be seen as bickering about billions of dollars amid an international health and financial crisis. In addition to the agreed-upon financial particulars, the parties engaged in significant discussions about the most vital issue now and in the future: how to proceed amid the outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

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Reports — New York Yankees agree with reliever Darren O’Day on 1-year, $2.5 million deal

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The New York Yankees quickly found a replacement for their bullpen, agreeing to a $2.5 million, one-year contract with submarining right-hander Darren O’Day, according to multiple reports.

The deal includes player and club options for 2022 and is subject to a successful physical, according to reports.

O’Day takes the spot vacated when the Yankees traded right-hander Adam Ottavino to Boston on Monday, a move that cut $7.15 million from New York’s payroll. O’Day figures to join left-hander Zack Britton and right-hander Chad Green as the primary setup men for closer Aroldis Chapman.

O’Day, 38, was 4-0 with a 1.10 ERA in 16⅓ innings over 19 games last year with Atlanta, striking out 22 and walking five while allowing eight hits. While his fastball averaged just 86 mph, his low arm angle creates deception; right-handed hitters batted .143 (7-for-49) off him with one home run, by Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, the leadoff batter of O’Day’s final appearance of the season. Left-handed hitters were 1-for-10.

He became a free agent when Atlanta declined a $3.25 million option, triggering a $250,000 buyout.

O’Day is a 13-year major league veteran, going 40-19 with a 2.51 ERA and 600 strikeouts and 158 walks in 576⅔ innings for the Los Angeles Angels (2008), New York Mets (2009), Texas (2009-11), Baltimore (2012-18) and Braves (2019-20).

He was an All-Star in 2015, when he had a 1.52 ERA and six saves while striking out 82 in 65⅓ innings, but he missed the final two months of the 2018 season with a strained left hamstring and the first five months of 2019 with a strained right forearm suffered during spring training.

O’Day made $833,333 in prorated pay last year from a $2.25 million salary, down from a $31 million, four-year contract he signed with Baltimore ahead of the 2016 season. His wife, Elizabeth Prann, is a correspondent for HLN and CNN.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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George Springer sees echoes of Houston Astros in Toronto Blue Jays’ young core

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TORONTO — George Springer thinks the Blue Jays‘ promising young core is similar to the group he played with that led the Astros to their first World Series title in 2017.

Springer and the Blue Jays agreed last week to a team-record $150 million, six-year contract. He joined a roster that includes young sluggers Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, The three-time All-Star outfielder was 2017 World Series MVP when he played with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa.

“This lineup reminds me a lot of them,” Springer said, wearing a Toronto cap and jersey during a video news conference. “It is a young lineup but it’s a very talented, advanced younger lineup. From everything I’ve seen, they’re very, very ambitious. They want to win, they work hard. That’s awesome to see.”

Toronto went 32-28 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, finishing third in the AL East behind the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees and qualifying for the expanded postseason. The Blue Jays were swept in two games during a first-round series by the eventual AL champion Rays.

“I think they’re right there,” Springer said of Toronto. “When you play against this team like I have, you could see the talent, could see the potential in their lineup, in their staff, in their arms. I think this team is built to win, and I think they’re going to be built to win for a long time.”

Team president Mark Shapiro said Springer was “clearly a good fit” for the emerging Blue Jays.

“His experience will add a certain level of wisdom to our players,” Shapiro said. “He’s been places where our guys haven’t been yet and knows how to handle those environments.”

In seven seasons, Springer has a .270 career average with 174 home runs and 458 RBIs, including career bests of .292 with 39 homers and 96 RBIs in 2019.

Besides Springer, Toronto also has signed right-handers Kirby Yates and Tyler Chatwood in the past week. The Blue Jays have a pending $18 million, one-year deal with infielder Marcus Semien, subject to a successful physical.

“We’ve taken the next step and we’ll see where that takes us,” general manager Ross Atkins said.

Shapiro insisted the Blue Jays still have flexibility to add payroll, likely to strengthen the rotation, but said “the bulk of our heavy lifting is done.”

Springer split time between center field and right with the Astros, but is expected to become a fixture in center for the Blue Jays. He’s also likely to lead off Toronto’s batting order.

“It’s no secret that George is a great leadoff hitter,” manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“I’m willing to do whatever it is they want me to do,” Springer said. “I’m here for the team, I’m here to win so whatever they want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

Springer said the Blue Jays contacted him early in the free agent process, putting him in “a very good state of mind” right from the first call.

“When you have a young talented group that’s already in place, it’s obviously very, very attractive because you know what they could potentially do,” he said.

Springer’s contract is the second $100 million-plus deal in team history. In December 2006, center fielder Vernon Wells and the Blue Jays agreed to a $126 million, seven-year contract.

Under new owner Steve Cohen, the New York Mets were said to be interested in Springer, but the outfielder wouldn’t address their pursuit.

“This is about the Blue Jays,” Springer said. “I don’t really have anything to say on that matter. I’m extremely happy to be where I am.”

Springer was more open to addressing Toronto’s interest in friend and former teammate Michael Brantley, who rejoined the Astros for a $32 million, two-year deal.

“I talk to Mike as a friend probably every day,” Springer said. “It’s not my business to ask him all that stuff. I was hopeful for it but, ultimately, I’m happy for him.”



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New York Mets promote assistant GM Zack Scott to acting GM

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NEW YORK — Zack Scott was promoted to acting general manager of the New York Mets on Wednesday, eight days after GM Jared Porter was fired.

Scott was hired as assistant GM on Dec. 23 after 17 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, the last two as assistant GM.

“Zack has plenty of championship experience to draw upon,” Mets president Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “He has been an integral part of our decision-making processes since his arrival. The entire baseball operations staff, including myself, will continue to work collaboratively.”

Scott, 43, oversaw Boston’s analytics along with advance scouting and professional scouting. He joined the team as an intern, became an assistant in 2005, then spent six seasons as assistant director of baseball operations.

A graduate of the University of Vermont with a mathematics degrees, he worked for Diamond Mind Inc. as a developer of baseball simulation software from 2000 to 2003.

Porter was hired by the Mets on Dec. 13 and was fired Jan. 19, nine hours after ESPN reported he sent sexually explicit, uninvited text messages and images to a female reporter in 2016 when he was working for the Chicago Cubs in their front office.

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